Mr. Benvenisti ran Teddy Kollek’s first campaign to become mayor of Jerusalem in 1965. After the 1967 Six-Day War, in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, he was given responsibility for that area and the Old City; was elected to the City Council in 1969; and was deputy mayor, in charge of the Palestinian neighborhoods, from 1971 to 1978. After campaigning unsuccessfully for the Knesset, he became a columnist for Haaretz, writing for it from 1991 to 2009.
Mr. Benvenisti first witnessed the impact of Zionism on the Palestinian population when, as a boy, he joined his father on tours to rename existing villages according to a Hebrew map of Israel’s ancestral homeland.
In his 2012 interview with Haaretz, timed to the release of his autobiography, “The Dream of the White Sabra,” he recalled planting banana trees on a kibbutz in the 1950s not knowing that he was “uprooting olive trees, thousands of years old, of a Palestinian village.” And he remembered, as a Jerusalem city official, seeing Arab homes demolished to accommodate the large plaza of the Western Wall — “the bulldozers and the clouds of dust that rose into the air and the old woman who was buried under one of the houses.”
Mr. Benvenisti said that once Israel had planted some 120 settlements on the West Bank beginning in the early 2000s under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the possibility of a Jewish state was no longer viable. “The notion of a ‘Jewish-democratic state’ is an oxymoron,” he said, “and the two-state solution is no solution.”
“The only way to live here will be to create an equality of respect between us and the Palestinians,” he said. “To recognize the fact that there are two national communities here which love this land and whose obligation is to channel the unavoidable conflict between them into a process of dialogue for life together.”
Characterizing himself as a “voice of doom” compared with Mayor Kollek’s idealism, he wrote in The New York Times Magazine in 1988 that he would remain in the city in which he grew up. “I knew all along that I could not escape Jerusalem: her contrasts, conflicts and contradictions are my own internal landscape,” he wrote.
And he knew, he went on, that he would some day find eternal rest in the Mount of Olives cemetery, “on the slope of the Valley of Last Judgment — just below Dominus Flevit, where Jesus, according to Luke, ‘beheld the city and wept over it saying, if thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes.’”